The fleeting fiddlehead fern season is upon us, readers. All across the country, gourmands are eagerly descending upon farmer’s markets, food co-ops, and premium grocers in search of the slightly fuzzy, furled fern tips that taste a bit like asparagus. Cooked properly, the fiddlehead fern is bright green and tender, with a nice crisp bite.
Their name comes from the fact that the tightly coiled ferns resemble the curled end of a fiddle or a violin. Like their namesake, good fiddlehead ferns are expensive, stemming from the high production costs. Fiddlehead ferns are wild-harvested, mostly in the northeastern United States; they’re foraged for, rather than cultivated, and the expansive selection of similar-looking (yet inedible) wild ferns make proper foraging a difficult task requiring expertise. What you want is the ostrich fern tips, but what the inexperienced fern forager might come across is the nearly identical Bracken Fern, which is carcinogenic. So, seeing as how I neither live in the northeast nor do I have access to an “Edible Fern Field Guide,” I figured I’d just buy the ferns at a store. Grok would have disapproved, but whatever.